Stephen Boos: Connecticut’s ‘thin blue line’ flag controversy

  • seb_ra

Published: 3/14/2019 1:17:25 PM

The raising, and lowering and re-raising of the “thin blue line” flag over the Connecticut state capitol sends an incredibly confusing message.

“All lives matter,” “black lives matter,” and “blue lives matter” are all true, or should be, but they are not equivalent, and unfortunately they represent movements and citizens in conflict. While all lives do matter, the drumbeat of news often makes it appear as if black lives matter less, to the larger society and to the law enforcement community.

As a slogan, “all lives matter” is easily dismissed as trite, self-obvious, and dismissive of the important message of “black lives matter.” But what of “blue lives matter.” It would be easier to embrace “blue lives matter” if it hadn’t emerged as pushback against the criticism of police violence against black citizens that lends so much urgency to the “black lives matter” message.

It would be easier to embrace “thin blue line” if it wasn’t so obvious a metaphor for police solidarity against public criticism, even valid criticism.

But the fact is, the lives of law enforcement officers aren’t like those of most citizens. They see things we would shudder to see, are treated in ways we wouldn’t want to be treated, and run into situations that would make most of us cower or run away. We need the protection of the police, and the communities where disenfranchised citizens are forced to live often need it more.

Blue lives have to matter, and individual officers need to deeply trust that we all fully support that blue lives matter. Otherwise, the thin blue line will grow ever thicker, and this will devolve into a zero-sum gain argument instead of an iterative process producing public safety and justice.

So we need a new flag. No more “thin blue line,” but yes “blue lives matter” and “black lives matter” and, if we get it right, all lives will matter equally.

Stephen Boos


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